OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G review: a reliable companion for the most part

Review Summary

Expert Rating
7.5/10

Design
★  
7.0
/10
Display
★  
7.0
/10
Software
★  
7.0
/10
Camera
★  
7.0
/10
Performance
★  
7.0
/10
Battery
★  
7.0
/10

Pros

  • Good design
  • Capable stereo speakers
  • Clean UI
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • Cameras are not the best
  • Uses an LCD display

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite has been announced in the Indian market for a starting price of Rs 19,999For a while now, OnePlus has been branching out into different segments of the mobile market, with the Nord brand catering to a more value-centric audience. Competing in the Rs 20,000 segment is already a very tough ask for all OEMs thanks to a bevy of capable offerings. Is there anything that can set the Nord CE 3 Lite apart in a sea of similarly specced devices? Let’s find out in this full review of the handset.

Verdict

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is largely similar to its predecessor but offers some improvements in the audio setup, charging capabilities, and the primary camera’s resolution. While its photography and processing power could leave you wanting, the Nord CE 3 Lite passes the litmus test for being able to provide a decent overall experience in its segment.

The lowdown

  • In terms of visual changes from the previous iteration, the Nord CE 3 Lite incorporates two giant camera rings on the back instead of three smaller ones. The optical apparatus housed inside remains the same, but it gives the illusion of better image-capturing capabilities. As far as materials used, the back panel is made using glossy plastic which can scratch a bit easier than I would’ve liked. I have received the Pastel Lime colour variant, which is a soothing and subtle light green shade. On the bottom, the Nord CE 3 Lite has retained a 3.5mm headphone jack, which almost feels like an alien feature nowadays but one that I appreciate nonetheless. However, what I don’t like is the continued exclusion of the handy alert slider. 
  • The phone has a moderate thickness of about 8.3mm and weighs 195g. Other design elements are standard and include a stereo speaker setup, a power button with an integrated fingerprint scanner on the side, and a USB Type-C port at the bottom.

  • Display-wise, the CE 3 Lite has a slightly bigger display than last time at 6.7-inch but it still uses an LCD panel instead of AMOLED. The refresh rate and resolution remain the same at 120Hz and FHD+ respectively. While the viewing angles are decent enough, the screen only gets up to 680nits of peak brightness, which is a hindrance in sunny outdoor conditions. In terms of its viewing experience, the display has an 8-bit colour depth and there’s a hint of saturation even with the default colour setting. For OTT platforms, the certification on offer is WideVine L1 for HD streaming. Apart from that I did notice some backlight bleeding around the punch-hole camera on the top.
  • As for the cameras, the primary sensor this time around is a 108MP Samsung HM6 shooter, while the macro and depth sensors remain the same as before at 2MP each. Daylight images remain decent enough but there is some scope for improving the dynamic range. A lot of the high-exposure areas are just turned white on many occasions, which robs the scene of details. The focus and shutter speeds are fine and the colour output is slightly muted. There’s a 3X mode on the viewfinder which will crop into the 108MP’s full-resolution shot and the results are pretty decent. 
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  • I am disappointed by the lack of an ultra-wide sensor which would make a lot more sense than the macro and depth shooters. The close-up macro shots I took were none too impressive and the edge detection with the portrait mode can be improved upon as well. In terms of low-light images, the snaps failed to me impress me, with detail levels on the edges of the frame being a big issue. Even while tapping on the viewfinder, the area on the outskirts of the frame was hardly ever pulled into focus. The exposure metering seemed fine and highlights were also well-defined. However, the dedicated Night mode is of little help during extremely low-light conditions. Lastly, the selfie camera is satisfactory, and is able to capture good facial detail and skin tones. It is no different than every other 16MP shooter in the affordable segment.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 695G is the choice of silicone on the Nord CE 3 Lite, exactly like the Nord CE 2 Lite last year. The problem is, since 2022, there has been a jump in processing prowess on most smartphones that are in the 3 CE’s price range. As such the device has reasonable benchmarking numbers, but is definitely not among the top performers. On Antutu, the device had an overall score of 408,711 and Geekbench 6 spits out a multi-core result of 2,124. Now, these are not bad numbers per se, but it will not be difficult to best the device in performance by offerings that run on the Snapdragon 778G platform. Even so, users with relatively low processing requirements will be able to multi-task effectively on the CE 3 Lite. The CPU Throttle benchmark showed that the handset is able to maintain upwards of 89 percent of its peak performance, which can be considered quite good.
  • The phone has 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM that can be boosted by another 8GB via virtual swap memory. The internal storage is up to 256GB UFS 2.2 and there’s a microSD card slot that can expand this by 1TB. Largely the stereo speaker setup had me impressed, particularly how loud it can get without losing depth. The side-mounted fingerprint sensor works as advertised and the registration process is fairly straightforward as well. Apart from the phone has support for all popular sub-6GHz 5G bands, both SA and NSA. My time on Jio’s Noida circle turned out to be satisfactory, as did the microphone and earpiece quality.
  • The Nord CE 3 Lite is running OxygenOS 13.1 based on Android 13. I have said in my earlier reviews of recent OnePlus devices, OxygenOS is moving closer to OPPO’s ColorOS. Some examples of that include a very similar theme, icon pack, and quick settings. I do like that there’s less bloatware than what you would see on OPPO phones though. You can read my OnePlus 11R review for more details about the software experience.
  • There’s a 5,000mAh battery on the handset, which is pretty standard in this price bracket. It comes with 67W SuperVOOC charging capability that can juice up the phone from 0 – 100 percent in about 45 minutes. The battery life itself is nothing out of the ordinary, with screen-on time being in the range of six hours without using any 5G capabilities.

Final verdict

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite offers little to no upgrades from its predecessor in terms of display and processing power. However, it boasts a better stereo speaker setup, faster charging speeds, and an upgraded 108MP main camera. Although it may not meet the highest standards for photography and performance, it can be considered a worthy choice for budget-conscious OnePlus fans.

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5 

Pros: 

  • Good design
  • Capable stereo speakers
  • Clean UI
  • Decent battery life

Cons: 

  • Cameras are not the best
  • Uses an LCD display

Key Specs

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G
RAM8 GB
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 695
Rear Camera108 MP + 2 MP + 2 MP
Front Camera16 MP
Battery5000 mAh
Display6.72 inches (17.07 cm)
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OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite 5G Price
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Rs. 16,850.00
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